The Winter of the Witch - Katherine Arden

Goodreads Book Blurb:

One girl can make a difference…

Moscow is in flames, leaving its people searching for answers – and someone to blame. Vasilisa, a girl with extraordinary gifts, must flee for her life, pursued by those who blame their misfortune on her magic.

Then a vengeful demon returns, stronger than ever. Determined to engulf the world in chaos, he finds allies among men and spirits. Mankind and magical creatures alike find their fates resting on Vasya’s shoulders.

But she may not be able to save them all.

Series / Genres:

My Review:

absolute favourite:
5/5

“There are no monsters in the world, and no saints. Only infinite shades woven into the same tapestry, light and dark. One man’s monster is another man’s beloved. The wise know that.”

So much happened in The Winter of the Witch I’m still struggling to get my brain around it. It was everything I wanted it to be, rounding out the trilogy beautifully. There is so much pain and sadness and fear, followed by strength and courage and hope. Vasya truly comes into herself and, though she has never apologised for who she is, now she comes forward and forces those around her to accept her and the help she can provide.

I absolutely love this series. Every book was so different, so unique, but fit together perfectly to tell Vasya’s story. They each represent a stage in her life; The Bear and the Nightingale starts from her conception, through her childhood in Lesnaya Zemlya, her discovery of her differences, and the start of her acceptance, however unwilling. In The Girl in the Tower, she is looking for a way to be accepted, despite her differences. She is searching for a way to be herself and still part of society, without being forced into marriage or a convent. Finally, in The Winter of the Witch, when she feels that she has been betrayed by her family, her beliefs, even her country, she is able to be reborn into herself. Fighting just to stay alive, she discovers her truth, her ancestry, and her purpose.

Katherine Arden is incredible. She has somehow managed to write a fantasy series encompassing every genre, but including only the best part of each;
Action/Adventure: all three books, but especially the third, is filled with adventure and violence and fighting.
Dystopia: Have some oppression of women at the expense of lives alongside a demanding theocracy putting the country in danger to ensure there is only belief in one God.
Fantasy: Here are some modern retellings of Russian folklore and fairy tales
Horror: There are elements throughout the series of truly terrifying spirits.
Mystery: Everything in this entire series is a mystery that Vasya is trying to solve.
Paranormal: How about magic and Slavic spirits, witches and vampires?
Romance: There is no better love interest than the freaking winter king.
Thriller: I was on the edge of my seat the entire time with suspense, anticipation, and anxiety.
Tragedy: Death is forever present and no one is safe.
I honestly cannot rave about her writing enough. The complexity of the characters and the imagery is overwhelming. The plot is unpredictable and unique, there were so many times I was terrified and had no idea how Vasya was going to overcome her circumstances. She found herself in danger so many times and seemed utterly trapped and all I could do was keep reading to find out what happened next. I lived in this vivid world Arden created and have left it dejectedly, entirely unsatisfied to be back in the real world.

I could keep going forever, I think, about how much I loved this book and this series. I’m so happy there were no letdowns here. Each subsequent book picked up immediately after the end of the previous. There was no skipped time or glossed over character development. You get to be with Vasya from her conception to her incredible finale and experience every thought, every injury, every discovery. I’d love another ten books here but at the same time, I’m so happy to end on a high, wanting more. This series is being added to my absolute faves, and I’m sure I’ll be back in the future to revisit this wondrous world and these characters.

“I am a witch,” said Vasya. Blood was running down her hand now, spoiling her grip. “I have plucked snowdrops at Midwinter, died at my own choosing, and wept for a nightingale. Now I am beyond prophecy.”

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